A Meditation on GivennessPope John Paul II Karol Wojtyła
"In creating man as man and woman, God imprints on humanity the mystery of that communion which is the essence of his interior life."
1. Creation as Gift1
Can one man2 say to another, “God has given you to me”? As a young priest, I once heard my spiritual director say to me: “Perhaps God wills to give that person to you.” These were words of encouragement, urging me to trust God and accept the gift one man becomes for another. I suspect it didn’t immediately dawn on me that these words also hide a profound truth about God, man, and the world. The world, the very world in which we live, the human world . . . is the setting of an ongoing exchange of gifts—gifts given and received in many different ways. People live not only alongside one another, but also in manifold relationships. They live for each other; relating to one another, they are brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, friends, teachers, students. . . . It may seem that there is nothing extraordinary in this; it is just the normal pattern of human life. In certain places, this pattern intensifies, and it is there, at those points of “intensification,” that this gift of one person for another becomes most real.
When two people join with one another, not only do they give themselves to each other, but God also gives them to one another. In this, God’s creative plan is enacted. As we read in Genesis, God created the visible world for man, told him to subdue it (see Gn 1:28), and subjected the whole world of lower creatures to man’s dominion. However, his dominion over the created world must take account of the good of individual creatures. The book of Genesis reminds us that God saw that all creation was good. Creation is a good for man so long as man is “good” for the creatures around him: the animals, the plants, as well as inanimate creation. If man is good to them, if he refrains from unnecessary damage or thoughtless exploitation, then this creation forms a natural environment for him. Creatures become his friends. They enable him not only to survive but also to find himself.
God, in creating, revealed his glory and gave the whole richness of the created world to man; he gave it to man for him to rejoice in it, to rest in it. For the poet Norwid—to rest, to restore, to reset, to renew—to od-poczywać3—denotes to be conceived anew, to be reconceived. God gave the world to man for him to find God in it and so also to find himself. Nowadays, we often speak of “ecology,” i.e., concern for the natural environment. The foundational basis for such ecology, however, is the mystery of creation, which is a great and incessant stream of giving all the goods of the cosmos to man—both those goods he encounters directly as well as those he only discovers through research and experiments utilizing the various methods of science. Man knows more and more about the riches of the cosmos, but at the same time he sometimes fails to recognize that these come from the hand of the Creator. However, there are times when all men, even nonbelievers, glimpse the truth of the givenness of creation and begin to pray, to acknowledge that all is a gift from God.
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1. This meditation was originally signed on 8 February 1994 (six days after Pope St. John Paul II signed Letter to Families), but was not printed until 2006 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 98, no. 8 [4 August 2006]: 628–38). Reprinted and translated with permission. The following footnotes are by the translator.
2. In this meditation, the term man is used to translate both człowiek (homo in Latin) in some places, and in other places mężczyzna (vir in Latin). The two uses should be easily distinguishable depending on context.
3. The Polish poet and author Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1821–83) noted that the Polish term for rest—od-poczywać—shares the same root as the words for “conceive”—począć, and “beginning”—początek.